Enzymes 101: What You Need to Know

When you’re hungry, you eat. When you’re thirsty, you replenish water. You know your body needs these two basic things to work well, but what happens to the food once it goes down your gullet? 

That’s where the magic of digestion[i] comes in. Your body does lots of work to get the nutrients from the food you eat. One of the ways it does that isn’t actually abracadabra at all – it’s just thanks to digestive enzymes.

So now we may have triggered even more questions. Luckily, at Zenwise®, we have answers:

What ARE enzymes? (And what are digestive enzymes?)

As food moves through your gastrointestinal tract, your digestive organs break down food into smaller parts with the help of digestive juices and, yes, proteins called enzymes. The National Institute of Health (NIH) defines enzymes as “a substance that speeds up chemical reactions in your body.”

Digestive enzymes are specialized enzymes that work to break down food into simpler compounds[ii] - so the body can absorb the nutrients, vitamins, and minerals it needs. After all, that’s why we eat, right? (Well, that’s why we HAVE to eat to survive. What you CHOOSE to eat is another story.)

Where do enzymes come from?

NIH says enzymes are naturally produced from several places in your body, including the salivary glands, stomach, intestines, gallbladder, liver, and pancreas.

What do enzymes do?

Each of these digestive enzymes work to break down different kinds of foods. Think of it as having the right key for a lock. If you’re missing the key enzymes for a particular food, you might not be opening the lock to break it down adequately. 

According to Healthline[iii], there are many kinds of digestive enzymes, including:

Amylase: Helps break down carbs and starches into sugar
Bromelain: Helps break down protein
Cellulase: Helps break down plant fibers in raw veggies called cellulose that your body could otherwise not digest
Glucoamylase: Helps break down carbohydrates
Invertase: Helps break down table sugar to fructose and glucose
Lactase: Helps break down lactose, which is common in dairy foods
Lipase: Helps break triglycerides into free fatty acids
Protease: Helps break down proteins, like those found in meat
Papain: Helps break down protein

But these are only some kinds. And sure, your body naturally produces them in gastric juices, but there are other sources of these powerful proteins as well. And finding the right balance can often lead to good gut microbiome health!

What foods have digestive enzymes?

Fruits like pineapple, papaya, mango, kiwi, bananas and avocados are all rich sources of digestive enzymes.
Raw honey is not only delicious, but it is full of multiple kinds of digestive enzymes.
Fermented foods like kefir (fermented milk), sauerkraut (fermented cabbage), kimchi (fermented cabbage) and miso (fermented soybeans and koji) are known for their enzyme properties.
Ginger, used in cooking and traditional medicine, is known to be a digestive enzyme.

What are other sources of digestive enzymes, and how do know I need a supplement like ReplENZYMES™?

When the body doesn’t make enough digestive enzymes, you may end up with tummy upset. 

And many people may experience a decrease in digestive enzymes production after age 20, so some hard-to-digest foods may become harder to tolerate.

For example, if you can’t eat ice cream anymore without gas and bloating, you may want to talk to your doctor for medical advice about adding a digestive enzyme supplement. You may be feeling that way because your body isn’t producing as much lactase, the enzyme that breaks down the sugar in the dairy. And you’re shooting for lots of enzyme activity for a healthy gut.

How do you know which enzyme supplements are better than others?

The Food and Drug Administration requires supplements to be labeled uniformly, so consumers can clearly compare enzyme amount. Measurement weight (usually in milligrams) is the standard, but another popular option that is allowed due to the current thinking that it’s a “more true measure of a viable microorganism” [iv] is colony forming units, or CFUs.

Be sure to do your homework, and also select an enzyme supplement that is manufactured under current Good Manufacturing Practices (cGMP) as required by the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DSHAE).

Look for supplements formulated with multiple enzymes. Zenwise® ReplENZYMES™ includes 11 Digestive Enzymes.

Other questions?

You may have lots of questions that we didn’t answer. That’s ok! There’s lots to know about enzymes, and if you’re just starting a daily regimen, we have a talented team of trained Zenwise® experts who are ready to answer your questions about ways to replenish your good gut health!

We’re happy to help you find the product that’s right for you. You can reach our customer service team at support@zenwise.com or M-F from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. EST at (800) 940-1972.

And as always, all Zenwise® products are backed by our "Eat Freely...or its Free" guarantee!

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[i] https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/digestive-diseases/digestive-system-how-it-works

[ii] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27753218/

[iii] https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/natural-digestive-enzymes

[iv] https://www.fda.gov/media/115730/download

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